Top Ten Tips Palliative Care Clinicians Should Know About Spinal Tumors

J Palliat Med. 2019 Jan;22(1):84-89. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2018.0608. Epub 2018 Dec 20.


Nearly 20% of cancer patients develop symptomatic spine metastases. Metastatic spine tumors are most commonly extradural tumors that grow quickly and often cause persistent pain, weakness, paresthesias, urinary/bowel dysfunction, and/or paralysis. Surgical intervention aims to achieve more effective pain management, preserve/restore neurological function, provide local tumor control, and stabilize the spinal column. The desired result of treatment is ultimately to improve a patient's quality of life. Neurosurgeons employ multiple decision frameworks and grading scales to assess the need and effectiveness of a variety of surgical interventions ranging from minimally to maximally invasive. Likewise, palliative care offers an array of treatment options that allows the best, individualized plan to be determined for a given patient. Therefore, crossfunctional collaboration between palliative care, radiation oncology, medical oncology, and neurosurgery is crucial both in the maximization of available treatment options and optimization of quality of life for patients.

Keywords: extradural tumors; intradural tumors; metastatic spinal tumors; neurosurgery; palliative treatment; spinal tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Pain Management
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Quality of Life
  • Spinal Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Spinal Neoplasms / therapy*